Monday, May 17, 2010

Cameron Brings Change to the UK; Let's Hope So

In ending the Labor Party's 13-year rule, congratulations are in order to Conservative Party leader David Cameron on becoming the UK's new prime minister. Of course, "Conservative" is a far more watered down concept in Britain than here. And because the Conservatives (a/k/a the Tories) fell 20 seats short of a parliamentary majority in the 650-member House of Commons, they were compelled to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats to get them over the top--which included the ascension of shifty LibDem leader Nick Clegg to deputy prime minister.

The LibDems were also negotiating with Labor (in what was called a "coalition of losers"), but in the end, the two left-wing parties were unable to strike an agreement that would have kept Labor in control of 10 Downing Street, although without the hapless Gordon Brown continuing as prime minister.

In the final results, the Conservatives won 306 seats in parliament, 258 seats went to Labor candidates, and Liberal Democrats captured 57 seats (one constituency is in a recount, and the remaining members of parliament were elected by minor parties).

Under a parliamentary democracy, the executive and the legislative branches in general are one and the same. And in forging the coalition government, Cameron had to negotiate away a number of the Tories' public policy positions, which created heartburn for many members of his own party. In fact, Conservatives and LibDems alike are unhappy with certain aspects of the deal in view of the stark ideological differences between the two parties.

Cameron ran on a platform of "change," but given the huge problems facing Britain, an incremental, two-party approach may be best. As a practical matter, it may also be helpful to have the LibDems' fingerprints on some very difficult deficit reduction decisions that Cameron will have to make soon--although who knows how long this coalition will hold together.

London Telegraph columnist Janet Daley writes that the May 6 election signaled the end of Labor's welfare-state policies. Let's hope so.
Can we not finally agree – roughly 20 years after the collapse of Communism – that state-driven, command-economy solutions that attempt to control a country’s economic and social outcomes are dead?
The idea is finished, kaput, discredited even in its less totalitarian forms, and those who cling to it are the true reactionaries. To go on arguing about this ideology is a pernicious distraction: to continue to label those who defend it as “progressive” is absurd. Today’s real progressives are those who are trying to find ways of dismantling the monolithic structures left behind by the theology of state power.
Let's also hope that the UK general election is a precursor to the results of our elections in November 2010.

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